The How Of Pooh

Winnie the Pooh will turn 100 years old in 2025.  It was on Christmas Eve of 1925 that he made his first appearance in The London Evening News in a short story titled The Wrong Sort of Bees.  In 1926 a collection of short stories was published simply titled Winnie The Pooh and the legends began.

AA Milne the author of the Pooh stories nor his young son were quite ready for the fame and notoriety that these books would give them.  Alan Alexander Milne was a popular humorist and satirist of his day as well as an accomplished playwright, but all of his other work as popular and well-loved at their time would not have the everlasting effect that a stuffed bear and his friend would have on the entire world.

Winnie The Pooh to date has the original two books of stories, the second was called The House at Pooh Corner.  There have been 6 Winnie The Pooh Movies.  The first The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh was originally released as a series of shorts although the original plan was to have the stories as one piece.  Walt Disney Changed that plan and released the stories as individual cartoons to run with his major film releases.  Eventually The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh would be restored to a full movie.

Next came The Tigger Movie and then The Search for Christopher Robin followed by Piglet’s Big Movie and then Pooh’s Haffalump Movie.  Lastly the much-anticipated Christopher Robin.  This movie is live action and the characters are CGI generated  the story revolves around the animals rescuing their friend, the very grown up Christopher Robin.

Pooh was not idle when it came to the small screen either.  Pooh seems to have made his first television appearance on Shirley Temple’s Fairy Tale Theatre in 1960.  Thanks to Disney Historian Jim Fanning I was able to secure a list of Pooh’s TV adventures created by The Disney Studios.  According to Jim, “ Pooh had to wait until 1983 and the launch of the Disney Channel to become a full fledged TV star as the lead in his own series Welcome to Pooh Corner.

Premiering in 1988, The New Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, The Book of Pooh which debuted in 2001 and In 2007 as part of The Disney Channels Pre-school programming Pooh had his 4th TV series My Friends Tigger and Pooh.”  Thanks Jim.  Anyone interested in the history of The Disney Studios should get a hold of a copy of Jim Fanning’s book The Disney Book published by DK.  Jim’s articles can be found frequently on The D23 Web Page and he is a frequent speaker at Disney related events.

There have also been several Winnie The Pooh shorts made for the Holidays.  Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween have all been celebrated in The 100 Acre Wood by Pooh and his friends.  In fact not counting the Pooh movies there are 17 individual Pooh videos available today on Amazon these include the holiday stories as well as educational videos.  The Shirley Temple Fairy Tale Theater Show is also available on DVD.

AA Milne wrote a total of four books regarding his son and his toy bear.  The first was a book of poetry titled When We Were Very Young, and second volume of poetry followed titled Now We Are Six.  These two books as well as the two already mentioned, Winnie The Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner make up the four canonical titles of the Pooh stories.  But there are others, oh so many others.

I do not believe there is any way of telling just how many books have been published telling more stories of Pooh Bear or retelling the original stories in a simpler format.  There are books where Pooh and company are used to teach the alphabet and numbers as well as colors.  There are six separate Winnie The Pooh Cookbooks.  There was a series published by Whitman, beginning in 1977, of Winnie The Pooh Comic Books as well as a daily Winnie The Pooh Comic Strip.  Pooh Bear has also had several stage productions of his stories.  There are also radio like dramatizations of Milnes work that can be purchased on CD or thru a streaming service like Audible.

Winnie The Pooh has like Charlie Brown and Superman been featured in every form of entertainment known to man.  He has not been absent from music either.  Besides the Disney original soundtrack theme song Pooh has been immortalized in song by such musical luminaries as Maureen McGovern, Kathy Lee Gifford and Loggins and Messina.  Kenny Loggins went back several years later after his song The House at Pooh Corner was a hit and rerecorded it with Amy Grant and her then husband Gary Chapman.
In this version a final verse was written for the song.

It’s hard to explain,

How a few precious things,

Seem to follow throughout,

All our lives.

After all’s said and done,

I was watching my son,

Sleeping there with my bear,

By his side.

I tucked him, kissed him,

And as I was going,

I could swear that old bear,

Whispered, “boy welcome home.”

Believe me if you can,

I finally come back

To the house at Pooh Corner by one.

And what do you know there’s so much to be done,

Count all the bees in the hive,

Chase all the clouds from the sky,

Back to the ways of Christopher Robin,

Back To the ways of Christopher Robin,

Back to the day of Pooh.

 

This final verse shows the story of Pooh going full circle from father to son and back to the father again.  Maybe we never really leave Winnie the Pooh and the 100 acre wood behind at all.

Randy Pausch a college professor who died tragically of pancreatic cancer at the age of 47 left a legacy for his two small children.  He was asked by Carnegie Mellon University to give his last lecture.  Pausch accepted and a worldwide phenomenon occurred.  Pausch addressed the students of his university but the lecture he gave were life lessons for everyone.  Knowing that the lecture would be video recorded he not only left a legacy for his university, but he also left a message for his small children whom he would never live see grow up.

Randy spoke on all kinds of issues in his Last Lecture.  He spoke about money and how to treat others.  In an hour he covered as much as he could about all of life’s questions one of the last things he did before concluding the lecture was to ask a simple question.

Are you a Tigger or are you an Eeyore?

 

It’s highly doubtful that anyone in his audience had any trouble understanding what he was getting at.  If you’re an Eeyore you’re down and depressed and not much fun to be around.

If you’re a Tigger you’re up and excited and always fun to be with.  The Characters and the personalities of Pooh and his friends are so ingrained in us that we can drop the name casually or formally and most people will understand.

Alton Brown in his Food Network Television program Good Eats often said “Oh bother” whenever anything didn’t quite go to plan.  This was taken directly from Winnie The Pooh as Alton has admitted himself.  It might take a more discerning person to realize that Pooh had a tendency to say “oh bother” whenever things went wrong for him in both the books and the films but not much more.

One thing that should probably be made clear at this point is what Winnie The Pooh is not.  Winnie the Pooh, though definitely a fantasy is not a fairy tale.  This distinction should be made so the wonder of Pooh can become more apparent.

A Fairy Tale has a certain rhythm to it that the Pooh stories do not have.  A fairy tale tells a story of someone going on a quest of some kind.  That person faces danger in the quest and succeeds and ultimately is changed in the process.  With this definition in mind we can see that The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are fairy tales.  The Wizard of Oz is a fairy tale.  The Chronicles of Narnia are also fairy tales.  Winnie the Pooh is not.

In the original Pooh stories and not the Disney adaptations Winnie The Pooh and his friends do not achieve anything, and they never change.  Their circumstances might change but their basic personalities remain the same.  In the Disney film Pooh get to his honey in the book Pooh bear not only doesn’t get any honey, but he is left with his arms stuck in the air because he held the balloon in that position for too long.

Here is a whimsical definition of a true fairy tale.  This came form a 10th grade class on Folklore Fantasy and Fairy Tale.

When you go after treasure

You must go alone, at night

You must shed blood.

And the treasure you bring back is not what you first went out to seek.

In that simple thought provoking poem, you can see the essence of almost every fairy tale ever written in their original forms but you cannot see Winnie The Pooh.

Winnie the Pooh goes deeper than the average fairy tale or children’s book.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Phantom Tollbooth are witty, and both the adult and the child can enjoy reading them, but Winnie the Pooh goes deeper and has impacted our culture so much that these books are now being taken seriously by both philosophers and psychologists.  It cannot be said that the AA Milne’s intent was to write on either of these topics but the author’s intent and what is ultimately done with his work can be vastly different.

There are professional psychological journal articles written on Winnie The Pooh and his friends.  One such article gives a diagnosis for all the Pooh characters.  Pooh Bear himself was diagnosed as being ADHD as Well as having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Tigger has ADHD as well, Piglet a generalized Anxiety Disorder and Rabbit has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  The author seems to think that Christopher Robin has a gender identity issue but that may have more to do with the illustrations than the actual stories.  These stories were illustrated in the 1920s when young boys tended to have longer hair as rule and in some places in England the boy’s hair wasn’t cut until he was ten.  It was then kept in a box.

Philosophers have had their shot with pooh too as well.  One book stated that whole of western philosophy was waiting for Pooh and the fact that there are two books The Tao Of Pooh and The Te Of Piglet seems to reflect that all eastern philosophers were waiting for him too.

With the current surge in interest in mindfulness it won’t be long until their various leaders grab on to the Pooh stories as well.  As who knows better how to live in the moment than Winnie The Pooh and his friends.  In their world there is no tomorrow and no yesterday but only today.  This is true of the child as well.  Young children have a very limited ability to understand time and so the present moment is all that matters to them.  They are fully involved and invested in each and every moment of the day.  AA Milne had some sort of grasp of this idea about children and incorporated it into his Winnie The Pooh stories.

Winnie The Pooh does not just stop at books and movies TV shows and music, no he does not.  Winnie The Pooh is everywhere.  Toys, first stuffed animals, some recreations from the original drawing of E.H. Shepherd and some recreating the Disney versions of these characters.  There are PVC figures, action figures, board games, video games, card games and puzzles.  There are Winnie he Pooh art prints, clocks, comforters and sheets, night lights, cookie jars and cutters.  When it comes to clothing there are scores of shirts with Winnie the Pooh logos characters or quotes.  There are shoes and hand bags as well as lunch boxes, back packs and diaper bags.  Pooh is on almost every marketable item out there.

Besides the original illustrator Ernst Shepherd.  Pooh has had many other artists try to capture his essence.  Most notable are the popular sculptor Jim Shore and The Painter of Light Thomas Kinkaide.

What does all this mean?  It means that Winnie the Pooh and his friends are ingrained in us.  They are part of us and a delightful part it is.  We carry them with us consciously or unconsciously and in some ways maybe very slight they influence who we are.

At the end of The House At Pooh Corner Christopher Robin tries to explain to Pooh that he won’t be around like he had been.  He tells him that he “won’t be able to do nothing anymore because THEY don’t let you.”  in the long run he can’t explain it to Pooh.  But there will come a time when doing nothing is again permitted and the adult becomes the child.  This is the time that we reach back and rereads the stories that once meant so much to us.

CS Lewis said that “Someday you will be old enough to read fairy tales again.  It’s possible that had he read Winnie The Pooh he might have said “Someday you will be old enough to read children’s literature again.”  When you read these stories in your later years you see the truth and the simplicity in them and you have a renewed sense of hope and of yourself.  You find comfort in the old friends that will never leave you.

“So they went off together.  But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the forest, a little boy and his bear will always be playing. – AA Milne The House at Pooh Corner

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